Margie’s Pride Guide: Film and a little TV

Happy Pride, everyone! What a glorious time of the year, not even 117 degree Phoenix days can keep a good queen down! Over the course of my life, I have seen well over 3,000 films and unfortunately only a small fraction of those films (and of all the films ever made) prop up LGBTQIA lifestyle and values. Here is a list of some of the best I’ve seen separated into 11 of the following categories:

  • Mainstream
  • Indie
  • TV
  • International
  • Almodovar
  • Comedies
  • John Waters
  • Horror
  • Musicals
  • Action/Crime/Thriller
  • Documentaries

It’s important to note that this is not THE definitive list of LGBTQIA entertainment, unfortunately I haven’t seen everything, and even if I had, there are thousands of people more qualified to talk about this than I am. However, I’ve seen a lot and this list represents the best, the most inventive or revolutionary, the most transgressive in some cases and the most memorable I’ve seen. Let’s get started.

MAINSTREAM FARE

Getting this out of the way first, these are the most mainstream and well known movies among the U.S. film market. So before you snicker at me for including the most obvious choices, realize I’m just getting these out of the ways so we can dive into the deeper cuts.

Brokeback Mountain

2005 / USA / dir. Ang Lee / 134 minutes

Cast: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Michelle Williams, Linda Cardellini, Anna Farris, Kate Mara, David Harbour, Randy “I Got My Equity Card Revoked” Quaid

Unfairly labeled as “the gay cowboy movie” by mostly straight audiences, Ang Lee‘s beautiful screen adaptation of Annie Proulx‘s fantastic short story is the dark and tragic story of two men so beaten down the mores of 1950s society they can’t accept themselves, much less accept each other as lovers. That and the constant threat of homophobic violence from neanderthal proud boys. Heath Ledger delivers his finest screen performance (sorry Nolan fans) of a man living so far in the closet he might as well be one of Joan Crawford‘s wire hangers. (Streaming on SHOWTIME ; $1.99 rental on Amazon Prime)

Call Me By Your Name

2017 / France / Italy / USA / dir. Luca Guadagnino / 132 minutes

Cast: Timothee Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg

I honestly began this by writing “not many movies make me cry but Call Me By Your Name…” which is a big fucking lie, because I cry during Hell’s Kitchen episodes sometimes. I’m a big slobbery baby and Call Me By Your Name made me into the sloppiest, slobberiest baby imaginable. It’s basically a first relationship/break-up simulation that introduces the viewer to two incredibly realistic characters and has them slowly fall in love. You don’t even realize how invested you are until you’re clutching the person next to you, getting snot all over their shirt. Also, Timothee Chalamet should have won the Oscar that year over Gary Oldman playing The Nutty Professor’s British uncle. (Streaming on STARZ; $3.99 rental on Amazon Prime)

Carol

2015 / USA / dir. Todd Haynes / 118 minutes

Cast: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler, Sarah Paulson, Carrie Brownstein

I’m told by a good lesbian friend of mine that this is anything but a realistic lesbian movie relationship, but I couldn’t help getting caught up in this gorgeously photographed (thanks Edward Lachman), wonderfully solemn 1950s romance drama from gay auteur Todd Haynes. Blanchett and Mara give exceptional performances, and Carter Burwell‘s score stirs the heart. Recommended for any woman over 40. (Streaming on Amazon Prime)

The Kids Are All Right

2010 / USA / dir. Lisa Cholodenko / 107 minutes

Cast: Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson

Annette Bening and Julianne Moore are the lesbian moms everyone wish they had in this funny, heartfelt but not completely groundbreaking dramedy about self-discovery and Mark Ruffalo. ($3.99 rental on Amazon Prime)

Midnight Cowboy

1969 / USA / dir. John Schlesinger / 113 minutes

Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, Sylvia Miles, Bob Balaban

Probably the oldest movie on this list, Midnight Cowboy was the first X-Rated movie to win Best Picture (though it’s like a light R by today’s standards) and follows a sexy male prostitute (Jon Voight – when he didn’t look like boiled cheese) and his slimy rat-like pimp (Dustin Hoffman – should have won the Oscar that year) slinking their way around New York City. You know, back when it was…different. (Streaming on CINEMAX ; $3.99 rental on Amazon Prime)

Milk

2008 / USA / dir. Gus Van Sant / 128 minutes

Cast: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch, James Franco, Diego Luna, Denis O’Hare, Alison Pill, Victor Garber, Joseph Cross, Brent Corrigan, Dave Franco

Inferior to the doc of course, which is mentioned later in the documentary section, but this is a great and more importantly, important story of the first openly gay man elected to public office and how threatened that made conservatives feel. Sean Penn is predictably fantastic in the lead role as is the always underrated Josh Brolin as his assassin, but its gay creators Gus Van Sant and Dustin Lance Black that really bring this legend to life. ($3.99 rental on Amazon Prime)

Moonlight

2016 / USA / dir. Barry Jenkins / 111 minutes

Cast: Trevante Rhodes, Andre Holland, Naomie Harris, Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monae, Ashton Sanders, Alex Hibbert, Jharrell Jerome

Another Best Picture winner and decidedly more gay than Midnight Cowboy, at least less cryptic about its LGBTQIA themes than a mainstream movie made in 1969 could be. Featuring an all black cast and a budget of just $1 Million, Barry Jenkins makes magic with Moonlight, delivering us a powerful, understated film that never asks for our sympathy but receives it ten-fold. (Streaming on SHOWTIME ; $3.99 rental on Amazon Prime)

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INDIE FARE

Up until recently, LGBTQIA has lived exclusively on the fringes of American cinema. Upsetting because it wasn’t given a larger platform, but also liberating because independent film allowed it to be completely and wholly itself without having to water down any of its gayness. Here are some great independent queer efforts, mostly from the 90s it seems.

Boys Don’t Cry

1999 / USA / dir. Kimberly Pierce / 118 minutes

Cast: Hilary Swank, Chloe Sevigny, Peter Sarsgaard, Brendan Sexton III

Tragic and infuriating true story of a trans man, Brandon Teena, beaten to death and murdered when a bunch of rednecks found out he didn’t have a penis. Hilary Swank deservedly won an Oscar for her portrayal and the undeniably talented Kimberly Pierce went on to make a really awful Carrie remake. ($3.99 rental on Amazon Prime)

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

2018 / USA / dir. Marielle Heller / 107 minutes

Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Jane Curtin, Dolly Wells, Ben Falcone, Anna Deveare Smith

Melissa McCarthy gave the best and most beautifully nuanced performance of 2018 as real-life lesbian author Lee Israel, who forged correspondence letters of famous authors to make ends meet and pay her rent. She creates such a relatable human being, deeply flawed but honestly trying, and we root for her all the way while simultaneously understanding that what she’s doing is unequivocally wrong. Withnail & I‘s Richard E. Grant is also fantastic as her best friend/fellow alcoholic, who brings out her shittiest impulses. ($3.99 rental on Amazon Prime)

My Own Private Idaho

1993 / USA / dir. Gus Van Sant / 106 minutes

Cast: River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves, Flea, Udo Kier, William Richert, James Russo

Loosely based on Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Gus Van Sant‘s gritty and emotionally raw drama follows two male prostitutes (River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves) as they struggle to survive on the streets. River Phoenix‘s portrayal of a narcoleptic sex worker (arguably his best) should have earned him an Oscar nomination, but instead he died two years later. ($2.99 rental on Amazon Prime)

Mysterious Skin

2004 / USA / dir. Gregg Araki / 107 minutes

Cast: Joseph Gordon Levitt, Brady Corbet, Michelle Trachtenberg, Elisabeth Shue, Bill Sage, Jeffrey Licon, Chris Mulkey, Mary Lynn Rajskub

Speaking of male prostitutes, Joseph Gordon Levitt plays one in the supremely disturbing reckoning-with-the-past powerhouse tearjerker, Mysterious Skin. Basically, two teens were horribly molested by their little league coach when they were pre-pubescent. One grew up to be a prostitute (JGL), the other grew up to be a paranoid UFO conspiracist (Brady Corbet) who blocked out the traumatic memory of being molested to the point of him actually thinking he was abducted by aliens and probed as a child. It’s a difficult to watch but worthwhile for some truly incredible performances. ($3.99 rental on Amazon Prime)

Safe

1995 / UK / USA / dir. Todd Haynes / 119 minutes

Cast: Julianne Moore, Peter Friedman, James LeGros, Xander Berkely, Beth Grant, Dean Norris, Jessica Harper

Julianne Moore delivers arguably the greatest performance of the 1990s as a gaslit suburban housewife that develops a mysterious auto-immune illness that causes her to hyperventilate and break out in lesions. Her husband gets sick of her being a moody bitch so he sends her to a camp so she can deal with her shit and start fucking him again. This is an aggressively uncomfortable movie, seen at the time as a metaphor for AIDS creeping into Suburban Conservative Americana, but today it can also be seen as a Covid-19 metaphor. I’d consider it a horror film. ($3.99 rental on Amazon Prime)

Superstar – The Karen Carpenter Story

1988 / USA / dir. Todd Haynes / 43 minutes

Cast: Merrill Gruver, Michael Edwards, Melissa Brown, Gwen Kraus, Bruce Tuthill, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan

Speaking of uncomfortable, this 43 minute masterpiece might be the most effective PSA ever filmed about anorexia nervosa. Following the story of Karen Carpenter, acted out by Barbie dolls, it’s almost impossible to get ahold of, except when people leak it onto YouTube (link at the end.) Apparently Richard Carpenter hates the film and while MoMA has a copy, they have agreed with him never to show it. Pity, it could probably help a lot of people struggling with anorexia nervosa. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmY5mTmrsVI)

Weekend

2011 / UK / dir. Andrew Haigh / 97 minutes

Cast: Tom Cullen, Chris New

Basically a two person play about a weekend hook-up that might lead to something else. Beautifully acted by two leads, this is one of the most realistic film depictions of a fling I’ve ever seen. Although it isn’t just about boning, potential trigger warnings go out to asexuals for an exceptionally graphic sex scene. ($3.99 rental on Amazon Prime)

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TV

TV came out in big ways…

Frasier

1993 – 2003 / Seasons: 11 / Creator: David Angell, Peter Casey, David Lee

Cast: Kelsey Grammar, David Hyde Pierce, John Mahoney, Jane Leeves, Peri Gilpin, Dan Butler, Moose

The gayest show on television that’s about straight people. It’s created by gay people, the central cast is half-comprised of gay actors (David Hyde Pierce, John Mahoney, Dan Butler) and it teaches you a lot about African art, $200 belts, upholstery, theater and Byelorussan samovars. It’s also the funniest sitcom ever made, yes funnier than Seinfeld, Friends and even its own mother, Cheers. (Streaming on HULU and Paramount+)

Hannibal

2013-2015 / Seasons: 3 / Creator: Bryan Fuller

Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy, Laurence Fishburne, Catherine Dhavernas, Gillian Anderson, Scott Thompson, Hettienne Park, Raul Esparza, Eddie Izzard, Gina Torres, Anna Chlumsky, Richard Armitage, Katharine Isabelle, Michael Pitt

A lot of gay subtext is abound in this television adaptation of Thomas HarrisSilence of the Lambs prequel, Red Dragon. Basically a tense and sexual tension filled cat and mouse game between Dancy‘s FBI investigator Will Graham and Mikkelsen‘s brilliantly psychotic Hannibal Lecter. The subtext comes to a head in a late Season 2 episode where both men dine on ortolans, small birds that are illegal to eat but are a symbol of excessive wealth and luxury. The way this scene is filmed and the flesh-color of the birds puts fellatio front and center in the mind. This is them consummating their relationship, in a way. (Streaming on HULU)

I May Destroy You

2020 / Seasons: 1 / Creator: Michaela Cole

Cast: Michaela Cole, Weruche Opia, Paapa Essiedu

Famously snubbed by the Golden Globes, Michaela Cole‘s twelve episode HBO/BBC collaboration is a brilliant darkly comedic and affecting 30 minute drama about surviving sexual assault and the societal double standard depending if the victim is a gay man. If this all sounds too bleak to watch, then I assure you it’s not. Michaela Cole (writing and directing every episode as well as playing the lead) deftly handles the themes into something extremely palatable while never sugar-coating anything. It was one of the best shows of 2020, sadly a lot of people missed. (Streaming on HBOMAX)

It’s A Sin

2021 / Seasons: 1 / Creator: Russell T. Davies

Cast: Olly Alexander, Lydia West, Callum Scott Howells, Nathaniel Curtis, Omari Douglas, Neil Patrick Harris, Stephen Fry

Heartbreaking but incredibly well written British miniseries about five friends in 1980s London trying to survive the AIDS epidemic. Spanning an entire decade in just five one-hour episodes, the show features some of the richest characters currently on a television drama and the perfect blend of comedic and tragic elements. Stephen Fry and Neil Patrick Harris guest star. (Streaming on HBOMAX)

RuPaul’s Drag Race + Drag Race All Stars

2009 – 2021 / Seasons: 19 / creator: RuPaul Charles

Cast: RuPaul Charles, Michelle Visage, Ross Matthews, Carson Kressley, Hundreds of Drag Queens

I’m generally not a fan of reality shows because of how shallow and superficial they are, but there’s real-ass love in the room for RuPaul’s Drag Race. Sure, there’s plenty of drama, henny, but deep down these girls love each other and the fashion is fabulous. All Stars 6 premieres at the end of this month, and I’m crossing my fingers Eureka O’Hara brings it home for the big girls. (Streaming on Paramount+)

Schitt’s Creek

2015 – 2020 / Seasons: 6 / creator: Eugene Levy, Dan Levy

Cast: Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy, Dan Levy, Annie Murphy, Chris Elliot, Jennifer Robertson, Tim Rozon, Emily Hampshire, Karen Robinson, Sarah Levy, John Hemphill, Dustin Milligan, Noah Reid

Charming, funny, but above all else charming fish out of water story about a rich asshole family learning how to be human beings in bum fuck’s nowhere. Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy are brilliant as always, and it’s great mainstream audiences are finally realizing that. (Streaming on Netflix)

Six Feet Under

SIX FEET UNDER, (standing, l to r): Michael C. Hall, Lauren Ambrose, Frances Conroy, Richard Jenkins, (sitting): Freddy Rodriguez, Mathew St. Patrick, Peter Krause, Rachel Griffiths, Jeremy Sisto, 2001-2005, © HBO / Courtesy: Everett Collection

2001 – 2005 / Seasons: 5 / creator: Alan Ball

Cast: Peter Krause, Michael C. Hall, Frances Conroy, Lauren Ambrose, Freddy Rodriguez, Matthew St. Patrick, Rachel Griffiths, Richard Jenkins, Jeremy Sisto, James Cromwell, Lili Taylor, Patricia Clarkson, Joanna Cassidy, Justin Theroux, Ben Foster

Beautifully written but firmly depressing story about death, loss and above all else, deterioration. Everything deteriorates – relationships, friendships, passions, self-care, you name it. However the jolts of sharp humor Alan Ball and the writers provide add much needed relief to the proceedings. Also the amazing ensemble cast which introduced the majority of the world to both Michael C. Hall and Frances Conroy. (Streaming on HBOMAX)

also good:

Angels in America (HBOMAX)

Euphoria (HBOMAX)

Orange is the New Black (Netflix)

Oz (HBOMAX)

Pose (Netflix)

Star Trek: Discovery (Paramount+)

Transparent (Amazon Prime)

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INTERNATIONAL FARE

Some of the best LGBTQIA films come from artists and studio systems outside of the U.S…

Blue is the Warmest Color

2013 / France / dir. Abdellatif Kechiche / 180 minutes

Cast: Adele Exarchopoulos, Lea Seydoux

Considered controversial today because of the allegations that the director created a toxic and overly demanding workplace for the two lead actresses, but still objectively well made exploration of the ebbs and flows of a relationship, especially when there’s an added younger/older age dynamic. Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux (future Bond girl) do some amazing, Cannes award winning work, even if they’re best remembered for that two hour scissor scene. ($3.99 rental on Amazon)

The Handmaiden

2016 / South Korea / dir. Park Chan-wook / 144 minutes

Cast: Kim Tae-ri, Kim Min-hee, Ha Jung-woo, Cho Jin-woong, Kim Hae-sook

Park Chan-wook‘s gorgeous South Korean lesbian romance is also one of the best and most unpredictable heist movies of recent years. Featuring brilliant work from basically a five person cast, with the stand-out being Kim Min-hee (pictured above), this is well worth your time. Adapted from a recent novel set in Victorian era England, the action is shifted to Japan occupied Korea. (Streaming on Amazon Prime)

Happy Together

1997 / Hong Kong / dir. Wong Kar-wai / 96 minutes

Cast: Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Leslie Cheung, Chang Chen

Everyone can’t get enough of Chungking Express, and while I really do like that movie, Happy Together is Wong Kar-wai’s finest achievement. A technically impressive and emotionally crushing story about two lovers who move from Hong Kong to Argentina, break up on the way, spend time apart, get back together, rinse and repeat. Tony Leung Chiu-wai is absolutely riveting and anyone who has seen Happy Together will remember that beautiful voice recorder moment. (Streaming on HBOMAX)

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

2019 / France / dir. Celine Sciamma / 120 minutes

Cast: Noemie Merlant, Adele Haenel, Valeria Golino

I wasn’t the biggest fan of this when it came out but it absolutely mesmerized most viewers. The acting is phenomenal, the visuals are lush and that ending is like a sledgehammer to the heart. Maybe I need to give it a second chance, either way you should think about checking it out. (Streaming on HULU)

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PEDRO ALMODOVAR

Such an amazing filmmaker he’s deserving of his own category, Pedro Almodovar was making movies about gays, biological women and trans women way before it was cool…

All About My Mother

1999 / Spain / dir. Pedro Almodvar / 101 minutes

Cast: Cecilia Roth, Marisa Paredes, Penelope Cruz, Candela Pena, Antonia San Juan, Rosa Maria Sarda, Toni Canto

My favorite Almodovar movie poses the theory that part of every human being is a woman. This is a wonderfully humane, moving, beautifully shot and very funny masterpiece about a nurse/former actress seeking refuge with a troupe of actresses after facing a horrible tragedy. ($3.99 Rental on Amazon)

Bad Education

2004 / Spain / dir. Pedro Almodovar / 106 minutes

Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, Fele Martinez, Daniel Gimenez Cacho, Lluis Homar, Javier Camara, Nacho Perez

Probably Almodovar‘s most emotionally crushing work, Bad Education tells the story of a young filmmaker reuniting with his childhood love and trying to work through sexual trauma inflicted by their priest. Framed like a Hitchcock thriller with several twists and turns, it’s as unpredictable as it is dramatically satisfying. (Streaming on HBOMAX)

Law of Desire

1987 / Spain / dir. Pedro Almodovar / 102 minutes

Cast: Eusebio Poncela, Carmen Maura, Antonio Banderas, Miguel Molina, Bibiana Fernandez

The first truly excellent picture of Almodovar‘s half a century spanning career plays like queer Fatal Attraction. A celebrated screenwriter (Eusebio Poncela) struggles to make a project for his trans sister (a wonderful Carmen Maura) while fending off a dangerously insane one night stand (a chilling Antonio Banderas). It’s received some criticism for its trans lead being played by a biological woman, but Almodovar deftly casts an actual trans actress as a biological female character. Can’t be mad at that. ($3.99 rental on Amazon)

Pain & Glory

2019 / Spain / dir. Pedro Almodovar / 114 minutes

Cast: Antonio Banderas, Penelope Cruz, Asier Etxeandia, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Nora Navas, Julieta Serrano, Cecilia Roth

The most autobiographical film of Almodovar’s career follows an aging, body-obsessed filmmaker (a never better Antonio Banderas) haunted by his only hit film, made twenty years ago. When the opportunity arises for him to do a Q&A for an anniversary screening he attempts to reconcile with his lead actor/former lover who is now a struggling heroin addict. Pain and glory, indeed. (Streaming on STARZ)

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

1988 / Spain / dir. Pedro Almodovar / 89 minutes

Cast: Carmen Maura, Antonio Banderas, Julieta Serrano, Maria Barranco, Rossy de Palma, Kiti Manver

The only Almodovar film on this list that is a pure comedy, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown plays like the best and longest pile-on comedy sketch ever written. A romantically jilted woman (Carmen Maura, amazing again) tries to end her life with poison-laced gazpacho, but all these motherfuckers keep piling into her apartment with their drama. ($3.99 rental on Amazon)

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COMEDIES

Because laughing is good for health, goddamnit.

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

1994 / Australia / dir. Stephan Elliot / 104 minutes

Cast: Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, Bill Hunter, Sarah Chadwick

One of RuPaul’s favorite movies and the movie that originated many Drag Race-isms such as “Gentlemen, start your engines…”, this is a fantastic feel-good comedy about two drag queens (Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce) and a trans woman (Terence Stamp) that travel across the Australian outback on a drag tour. Fun note, on the strength of his performance in this, Guy Pearce was offered to go on tour in drag with The Village People, but ended up turning it down for L.A. Confidential. (Streaming on Amazon Prime)

Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar

2021 / USA / dir. Josh Greenbaum / 106 minutes

Cast: Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo, Jamie Dornan, Damon Wayans, Jr., Vanessa Bayer, Reba McEntire, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Reyn Doi, Fortune Feimster, Andy Garcia, Michael Hitchcck

This is the feel good, silly, irreverent beach musical/international spy thriller we needed right now. Playing like a funky update of the glorious 1960s Doris Day picture, The Glass Bottom Boat (of which there’s even a reference to within the film), Barb & Star follows two very mild Southern spinsters (Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo) from Soft Rock, Arkansas who dream of bigger and brighter things. After being ousted from their friend clique as well as their Jennifer’s Convertibles retail jobs, they decide to journey to Vista Del Mar, Florida for a little R&R and of course, end up completely finding themselves and strengthening their friendship. While Barb & Star has that manic, goofy for goofy’s sake, David Wain-esque type of comedy, it also has some genuinely tender moments between Wiig and Mumolo. The supporting cast is filled out by a never funnier Jamie Dornan, Waiting for Guffman/Best in Show player Michael Hitchcock, Vanessa Bayer, Damon Wayans, Jr. and Kristen Wiig again, as the super evil spy villain with a gloriously ridiculous backstory. This is light but never hollow entertainment, overflowing with hilarious little details. I loved it. ($5.99 rental on Amazon Prime)

The Birdcage

1996 / USA / dir. Mike Nichols / 117 minutes

Cast: Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Gene Hackman, Dianne Wiest, Dan Futterman, Calista Flockhart, Hank Azaria

Nathan Lane should have received an Oscar nomination for his hilarious and heartfelt portrayal that walks the thin line between camp and stereotype. This is a wonderfully entertaining and funny feel-good movie with a positive message about accepting yourself and the healing powers of drag. Fun note, the guy that plays Robin Williams‘ son (Dan Futterman) went on to write the movie Capote. ($3.99 rental on Amazon)

Booksmart

2019 / USA / dir. Olivia Wilde / 102 minutes

Cast: Beanie Feldstein, Kaitlyn Dever, Jessica Williams, Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, Jason Sudeikis, Billie Lourd, Skyler Gisondo, Molly Gordon, Noah Galvin, Diana Silvers, Austin Crute

On the surface it’s Superbad from a female POV, but this is a wonderfully heartfelt and at times, hilarious, best friends movie with sensational performances by Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever. Olivia Wilde really knocks it out of the park. (Streaming on HULU)

But I’m a Cheerleader

1999 / USA / dir. Jamie Babbit / 92 minutes

Cast: Natasha Lyonne, Clea DuVall, RuPaul Charles, Cathy Moriarty, Melanie Lynskey, Michelle Williams, Mink Stole, Bud Court, Eddie Cibrian, Julie Delpy, Kip Pardue

Unfairly and quite homophobically slapped with an NC-17 by the shitty MPAA, this is a campy but always honest lesbian teen comedy about friendships formed at a gay conversion therapy torture camp. RuPaul is hilarious as their “cured homosexual” camp counselor, Mike. (Streaming on Amazon)

Other People

2016 / USA / dir. Chris Kelly / 96 minutes

Cast: Jesse Plemmons, Molly Shannon, Bradley Whitford, Maude Apatow, John Early, Zach Woods, Madisen Beatty, June Squib, Retta, Matt Walsh, Paula Pell, Nicole Byer, Mike Mitchell

As much of a comedy as it is a drama, Other People is SNL writer Chris Kelly‘s somewhat autobiographical tale about a young gay writer (a fantastic Jesse Plemmons) coming home to visit his homophobic dad and dying mom. Molly Shannon was snubbed for an Oscar nomination for playing the mom. (Streaming on Netflix)

Tangerine

2015 / USA / dir. Sean Baker / 87 minutes

Cast: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor, James Ransone, Karren Karagulian, Mickey O’Hagen, Clu Galagher

Filmed on a freakin’ iPhone, Sean Baker‘s (The Florida Project) ultra low budget debut film follows a trans sex worker, Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) getting released from prison to find her pimp/boyfriend (The Wire‘s James Ransone) has been fucking around. Enlisting the help of her friend and colleague, Alexandra (a brilliant Mya Taylor), there’s going to hell to pay. ($3.99 rental on Amazon)

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JOHN WATERS’ FILTH CORNER

Desperate Living

1977 / USA / dir. John Waters / 90 minutes

Cast: Mink Stole, Liz Renay, Edith Massey, Susan Lowe, Jean Hill, Mary Vivian Pearce

The most undervalued of all of John Waters’ early classics, most likely due to the absence of Divine. What we do get is possibly Waters’ filthiest movie about a Suburban housewife (Mink Stole – EXCELLENT) breaking down and breaking bad after her nurse, Grizelda (Jean Hill) smothers her husband to death with a pillow. The two go on a road trip to Mortville, a town made of cardboard boxes and sex stains, where they meet and befriend a lesbian couple (Liz Renay, Susan Lowe) and piss off the town’s Queen played to 11 by Edith Massey. There’s also wrestling. ($2.99 rental on Amazon)

Female Trouble

1974 / USA / dir. John Waters / 97 minutes

Cast: Divine, Mary Vivian Pearce, Mink Stole, David Lochary, Edith Massey, Cookie Mueller, Susan Lowe

This is it, John Waters and Divine‘s magnum opus, Female Trouble. This is about the funniest a John Waters film has ever been, a deranged but never not fun tale of a high school delinquent, Dawn Davenport (Divine), turned death row inmate serial killer. What set her off? Not getting fucking cha-cha heels for Christmas. This one includes Hare Krishna, acid attacks and lots and lots of murder. ($2.99 rental on Amazon)

Hairspray

1988 / USA / dir. John Waters / 92 minutes

Cast: Ricki Lake, Divine, Jerry Stiller, Debbie Harry, John Waters, Vitamin C, Michael St. Gerard, Sonny Bono, Ruth Brown, Clayton Prince, Mink Stole

Probably the most popular of John Waters‘ output, a multi-Tony award winning Musical is based off of it, Hairspray is also the cleanest of Waters’ oeuvre. A charming early 60s set teen comedy about body positivity and the injustice of racial segregation. I love Harvey Fierstein, but nobody did it better than Divine. Don’t even say John Travolta. (Streaming on HBOMAX)

Multiple Maniacs

1970 / USA / dir. John Waters / 96 minutes

Cast: Divine, Mink Stole, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce, Cookie Mueller, Edith Massey, George Figgs as Jesus

The earliest Waters film most readily available, Multiple Maniacs isn’t as frenetically entertaining as the rest of Waters’ 70s-80s output but if features some dynamite scenes. Like Divine getting fucked by a giant lobster, someone inserting a rosary into Divine‘s butt like anal beads and Divine getting gunned down by the National Guard while America, the Beautiful plays. From here on out, Divine was a major gay icon. (Streaming on HBOMAX)

Serial Mom

1994 / USA / dir. John Waters / 95 minutes

Cast: Kathleen Turner, Sam Waterston, Matthew Lillard, Ricki Lake, Mink Stole, Mary Jo Catlett, Justin Whalin, Suzanne Somers, Joan Rivers, Mary Vivian Pearce, Susan Lowe, Patty Hearst

Easily the best of John Waters‘ post 80s work, maybe the only good one, Serial Mom follows another Suburban housewife, Beverly Sutphin (Maybe Kathleen Turner’s best performance) gone mad. What set her off? All the bullshit hypocrisy of white picket fence, conservative Americana. She kills neighbors for parking in handicap spots, refusing to recycle and being an asshole to the dentist. Watching Turner go absolutely bat shit, homicidal iinsane is a pleasure matched by little else. ($3.99 Rental on Amazon)

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HORROR

The Craft

1996 / USA / dir. Andrew Fleming / 101 minutes

Cast: Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell, Robin Tunney, Rachel True, Skeet Ulrich, Christine Taylor, David Duchovny, Breckin Meyer

If you were a teenage girl in the 90s or my sister, chances are you were absolutely obsessed with this movie. Bullied teenage girls from various abusive home lives find each other and start a coven. One of their friends has supernatural abilities and has decided to share…shit gets real. (Streaming on HBOMAX)

Heavenly Creatures

1994 / New Zealand / dir. Peter Jackson / 109 minutes

Cast: Kate Winslet, Melanie Lynskey

Early Peter Jackson film based on the true story of two New Zealand teenage girls in the 50s who formed a toxic friendship and ended up murdering one of their mothers. Melanie Lynskey and Kate Winslet are incredible. (Only Available on DVD, maybe YouTube)

Interview With the Vampire

1994 / USA / dir. Neil Jordan / 122 minutes

Cast: Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst, Antonio Banderas, Stephen Rea, Christian Slater

Gay but coulda been gayer if it wasn’t a mainstream studio release. Cruise and Pitt have incredible chemistry together as two forever hot vampires settling down with each other, but its 11-year-old Kirsten Dunst that completely walks away with the picture as a vampire forever trapped in a child’s body. ($3.99 rental on Amazon)

The Lost Boys

1987 / USA / dir. Joel Schumacher / 98 minutes

Cast: Jason Patric, Kiefer Sutherland, Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Dianne Wiest, Alex Winter, Jamie Gertz, Jamison Newlander, Baranard Hughes, Edward Herrmann

The Lost Boys is the most gloriously gay vampire movie ever made from legendary queer action filmmaker, Joel Schumacher. That’s right, the same man responsible for Batman’s nipples and a movie containing the worst ice puns ever written, gave us this wonderful treat. Sure, there’s a straight relationship at the core but the real sparks fly between Jason Patric and bad boy Kiefer Sutherland. And let’s not get started on that Rob Lowe poster… (Streaming on HBOMAX)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge

1985 / USA / dir. Jack Sholder / 87 minutes

Cast: Robert Englund, Mark Patton, Kim Myers, Robert Rusler, Clu Galager, Hope Lange

Unlike The Lost Boys, Nightmare 2 is allegedly unintentionally gay even though one scene features the P.E. coach being covered in balls and then whipped on his bare ass with a towel to death. Breaking all the rules the original put forth, this is a possession movie about Freddy Krueger more or less taunting a closeted gay teenager (though the movie never comes out and says it) about his sexuality and making him into a puppet for murder. This is a bizarre film that while maybe not good, actually maybe kinda bad, is endlessly fascinating to watch and revisit. This is also the scariest Freddy Krueger has been. Kudos to Robert Englund. (Streaming on HBOMAX)

Shiva Baby

2021 / USA / dir. Emma Seligman / 78 minutes

Cast: Rachel Sennott, Molly Gordon, Fred Melamed, Polly Draper, Jackie Hoffman, Danny Deferrari, Dianna Agron

The best and most innovative piece of work I saw this year was from a first-time feature filmmaker, of course. Based on her short film utilizing a lot of the same cast but this time with a bigger budget and a much appreciated Fred Melamed booster pack, Emma Seligman tells the story of a college-aged Gen Z bi-sexual, Danielle (Rachel Sennott, excellent) who is trying her best to figure out life shit while dealing with the intense pressure of traditional parental figures, in this case secular Jews. Set almost entirely at her Aunt’s Shiva, Danielle has to deal with her nagging parents, relatives who don’t understand why she isn’t a doctor or a lawyer already and her ex-girlfriend (Molly Gordon, even better), clearly thriving more at life than she is. How can this Shiva get any worse? Well, her dad’s co-worker ends up being her current “sugar daddy”. Even more awkward is the discovery both parties have been lying to each other, she isn’t using his money to put herself through law school and he never revealed the fact that he has a wife and child, also at the Shiva. What ensues is a dark comedy/psychological horror film about social anxiety, the consequences of misrepresentation and the crippling fear of parental disappointment. Also, deciding whether or not to binge eat at a depressing family event. I can tell you that’s a lost battle even before it begins. Shiva Baby easily could have been a piece of shit if Danielle was presented as some sort of martyr, but the fact she’s also lying in the situation (although her sugar daddy is way more at fault) makes her incredibly relatable. It’s also refreshing to see a great movie about Jews that isn’t set in Auschwitz, and Shiva Baby feels like a new classic in the Jewish American Cinema cannon. It’s funny, moving, frightening and political, especially in its depiction of millennials praising Gen Z with one hand while exploiting them with the other. There’s a point early on when Danielle’s sugar daddy clutches her after sex and says “You’re the future.” I think that made me throw up in my mouth a little. ($4.99 rental on Amazon Prime)

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MUSICALS

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Cabaret

1972 / USA / dir. Bob Fosse / 123 minutes

Cast: Liza Minelli, Joel Grey, Michael York, Helmut Griem, Marisa Berenson, Fritz Wepper

I only recently saw this musical classic and can attest it’s a fantastic movie, wonderfully directed by Bob Fosse with dynamite performances from Liza Minelli, Michael York and especially, an Oscar-winning Joel Grey as the Emcee. This is really about queer performers fighting the tide against fascism in pre-World War II Berlin, and that’s sadly more relevant than it should be. ($3.99 rental on Amazon Prime)

Grease

1978 / USA / dir. Randal Kleiser / 110 minutes

Cast: John Travolta, Olivia Newton John, Stockard Channing, Sid Caesar, Frankie Avalon

It’s Grease! ($3.99 rental on Amazon Prime)

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

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2001 / USA / dir. John Cameron Mitchell / 95 minutes

Cast: John Cameron Mitchell, Andrea Martin, Michael Pitt, Miriam Shor, Stephen Trask

I remember seeing this at Camelview when it came out back in 2001. My mom took me and it was one of the best movie theater experiences of my life. Neil Patrick Harris would go on to play Hedwig in the Broadway version, but John Cameron Mitchell, who originated the role on stage and wrote and directed the whole thing, is absolutely magical. ($3.99 rental on Amazon Prime)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

1975 / USA / dir. Jim Sharman / 100 minutes

Cast: Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Patricia Quinn, Richard O’Brien, Meat Loaf, Nell Campbell, Peter Hinwood, Charles Gray, Jonathan Adams

The original midnight movie that features the best Tim Curry performance of all time and musical numbers I’m pretty in love with. This is just pure naughty fun. ($3.99 rental on Amazon Prime)

Victor/Victoria

1982 / USA / dir. Blake Edwards / 134 minutes

Cast: Julie Andrews, James Garner, Robert Preston, Lesley Ann Warren, John Rhys-Davies, Alex Karras

Julie Andrews is amazing as a woman playing a man playing a woman. This is really funny stuff. (Streaming on HBOMAX)

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ACTION/CRIME/THRILLER

Bound

1996 / USA / dir. The Wachowski Starship / 109 minutes

Cast: Jennifer Tilly, Gina Gershon, Joe Pantoliano, Christopher Meloni

Before The Matrix, the Wachowski Starship made this lesbian crime thriller about a woman (Jennifer Tilly) who falls in love with an ex-con (Gina Gershon). Together they plan to steal $2 Million from Jennifer Tilly‘s obnoxious mafia boyfriend (Joe Pantoliano – real Ralph Cifaretto vibes). What could possibly go wrong? (Streaming on HULU)

Monster

2003 / USA / dir. Patty Jenkins / 110 minutes

Cast: Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci, Bruce Dern, Lee Tergesen, Scott Wilson

Charlize Theron is absolutely terrifying and tragic and wholly sympathetic as serial killer Aileen Wuornos, who started off killing abusive Johns she encountered but ended up killing more or less innocent people. This is a tough watch, but watch for Theron. It’s still one of the best screen performances I’ve seen. (Streaming on Amazon Prime)

Set It Off

1996 / USA / dir. F. Gary Gray / 123 minutes

Cast: Jada Pinkett, Queen Latifah, Vivica A. Fox, Kimberly Elise, John C. McGinley, Blair Underwood, Dr. Dre, WC, Ella Joyce

Like a 90s all black women version of Widows, Set It Off follows four women completely beaten down by life who out of desperation and anger begin robbing banks. The four leads are incredible here and while it’s certainly guilty of being very on-the-nose and a bit ham-fisted, their performances help ground it. (Streaming on SHOWTIME, $2.99 rental on Amazon Prime)

The Talented Mr. Ripley

1999 / USA / dir. Anthony Minghella / 139 minutes

Cast: Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett, Philip Seymour Hoffman, James Rebhorn, Jack Davenport, Philip Baker Hall, Celia Weston

Matt Damon has never been better than as the cool, calculating and incredibly lonely sociopathic genius, Tom Ripley. He’s obsessed with Jude Law, especially when he takes baths and Philip Seymour Hoffman shows up to be amazing. (Streaming on CINEMAX ; $3.99 rental on Amazon Prime)

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DOCUMENTARIES

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson

2017 / USA / dir. David France / 105 minutes

Maybe the most important documentary on this list, this tells the story of trans civil rights activist Marsha P. Johnson. (Streaming on NETFLIX)

I Am Divine

2013 / USA / dir. Jeffrey Schwarz / 90 minutes

A look at the sleaziest queen the USA has ever seen, but also maybe the most thorough look at the Dreamlanders (John Waters‘ acting ensemble) we’ve ever seen. (Streaming on NETFLIX)

Paris Is Burning

1990 / USA / dir. Jennie Livingston / 71 minutes

One of my favorite documentaries of all time, in many ways drag’s origin story. The balls, the vogueing, but it’s not only the joy of it, Jennie Livingston takes the time to delve into it the more serious issues intwined the world of drag such as discrimination, poverty, and AIDS. (Streaming on Criterion Channel)

Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street

2019 / USA / dir. Roman Chimienti, Tyler Jensen / 99 minutes

Documentary centering around the then-closeted star of Nightmare on Elm Street 2 and how the movie has more or less defined his life, giving him countless fans but also attracting countless of angry and potentially dangerous homophobe fan boys. ($2.99 rental on Amazon)

The Times of Harvey Milk

1984 / USA / dir. Rob Epstein / 90 minutes

Better than the Hollywood movie. ($3.99 rental on Amazon Prime)

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Ya’ll come back now!

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